After a couple of days detouring to election law, today we're back to our usual programming.
We caught wind of an upcoming book (September 2014), "Private Property and Public Power: Eminent Domain in Philadelphia," by Barnard College Professor Deborah Becher. "Her book—the first comprehensive study of a city’s eminent domain acquisitions—explores how and why Philadelphia took properties for private redevelopment between 1992 and 2007." Sounds intriguing. More information about the book here.
Here's an interview with Professor Becher about the book and her study, which lists some of her more controversial -- and debatable -- conclusions. Highlights:
- "The problem is that pundits and activists present the transfer of ownership to a new private owner as the fundamental problem. They say that if government were to take property for a school, a highway, or a public park, abuse wouldn’t be an issue, and that all takings for new private ownership are opposed. That’s an appealing argument, but it’s wrong."
- "One of the things I hope that readers take away is a changed perception about Americans’ commitment to property rights. It’s commonly believed that Americans expect governments to protect an owner’s right to control their land and buildings—except to the extent that they harm others in doing so. I saw that people were willing to forfeit an owner’s right to such control if they didn’t do more: actually steward their properties so that the neighborhood would remain safe, comfortable, and stable. In cities, where the comfort and value one enjoys from owning or renting a home or business now depends so greatly on what neighbors, local organizations, and governments do, an ideal of property stewardship seems to trump an ideal of property rights to control or dominion."
- "This kind of case [Kelo] is not representative of eminent domain for private redevelopment generally. Yet the Kelo story of abuse has served as an icon of a libertarian campaign to limit eminent domain and a broader property-rights movement. The case was argued by the libertarian public interest law firm, the Institute for Justice. The libertarian Castle Coalition was formed to mobilize public support. They succeeded in passing eminent-domain reform statutes in almost every state in the few years following Kelo. The problem is that by addressing the wrong issue—taking property for private redevelopment rather than support for neighborhood stability—these reforms simply push problems even more squarely on the poor.
Now we're not going to prejudge the Professor's conclusions before we (maybe) actually read the book, but much of the above does not ring true to us. We hope others with more extensive background and experience can weigh in on the subject.